News & Features » Street Talk (Old)

Gardeners Unite at Abandoned Church Hill Lot

She and a determined group of Richmonders hope to turn the grounds into an open community-agriculture retreat called Tricycle Gardens, a place where people can grow fruit, vegetables and flowers.

Taranto, who directs a board of 10, hopes to dole out about 30 plots, 100 to 150 square-feet each, for $50 a year to residents who agree to maintain them responsibly.

Taranto is a 36-year-old ceramic artist who gutted and restored her own Church Hill home on Broad near Chimborazo eight years ago. Using government and private money, she hopes Tricycle Gardens will be a premier neighborhood improvement. "I just want to see this as the most magical place ever," she says about the project, then checking herself with a laugh — "Isn't that what they say at Disneyland?"

Tricycle Gardens is modeled after similar projects in Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as a federally funded program in Canada. Already, Taranto's group says, it has developed relationships with the Richmond Better Housing Coalition, which provided a five-year lease for the land, and Vice Mayor Delores McQuinn, who has promised to help with the initial excavation and development.

While working toward a nonprofit designation, the group cites a diverse array of sponsors, including the Richmond Parks and Recreation Foundation, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the 17th Street Farmers' Market.

The group forsees the Farmers' Market as an opportunity for children to sell the produce grown in the garden there, says Alison Auth, vice-director of the board. ("As I like to say, veggie director," she offers, "but I'll take vice.")

Auth, a Forest Hill resident, is a self-described "rabid organic gardener" who gardens four-and-a-quarter acres of her own. She thinks of Tricycle Gardens as a place for people "who share a love of gardening, as well as a sense of community pride." And maybe most importantly, she says, a "way to share responsibility."

Auth says the group hopes to break ground in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, she says, "we're more than happy to receive any donations."

— Wayne

Add a comment